Protein Skimmers

Protein skimmers are used in saltwater aquariums. They remove waste and organic materials from the aquarium water before they break down into nitrates.

What makes a protein skimmer different from other filtration?

What sets protein skimming apart from biological filtration is that protein skimmers actually remove physical waste from the aquarium rather than breaking down the byproducts.

Protein skimmers, as a result, will lessen load on other biological filtration when they are employed correctly.

How does a protein skimmer work?

The bubbles in a protein skimmer act as agents that carry the organics to the top of the unit. It is the combination of the air/water that makes the protein skimmer work.

Inside of a protein skimmer, the aquarium water is pushed through a column of bubbles. The bubbles create surface in which the organics collect. The bubbles carry to the top of the skimmer unit, and overflow into a cup. The result of this is that very little water is actually lost from the aquarium in the process, but many of the organic wastes are removed.

Protein skimmers do create waste as a byproduct, and the waste will need to be removed frequently. Protein skimmers use a collection cup that collects the waste, which is then dumped out manually by the aquarium owner.

Types of protein skimmers

Popular methods used in protein skimmers are:

  • Air stones – manually pushing air through a stone with many small holes will create a lot of bubbles. Air stone skimmers are typically homemade devices and may be inefficient compared to other mechanical skimming devices.
  • Venturi – aquarium water is pushed through a venturi, where air is combined, creating many bubbles. This method is popular in protein skimmer designs.
  • Aspirating – these use a small impeller to propel water and air, creating a very efficient design. This method is also very popular in protein skimmers.
  • Spray Injection – this method uses a spray nozzle to induce the air/water mixture in a downdraft, and the bubbles then rise to the top collection cup. Currently Aqua C makes these.

When selecting a protein skimmer for your aquarium, be sure to pick a unit that is properly rated for your size of aquarium.

Be patient with your protein skimmer, as each model has it’s own feel and own way of adjusting and tweaking for best performance.